How To Master The Perfect Holiday Cocktail

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resizeChampUntitled-1Photo: James Ransom/ Courtesy of Food52.
Food52 helps people become better, smarter, happier cooks. Food52 was named 2012 Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and won Best Culinary Website at the 2013 IACP awards. This article was originally published on October 29.

C is for Champagne Cocktail, which comes after M for Milk Punch in our world. It’s the holiday season, and we can drink what we want, right? New Year's just isn’t the same without a toast.

From its translucent gold color to the tingle of its bubbles, champagne is made for celebrations. Legend has it that after Dom Perignon, a 17th-century Benedictine monk, stumbled upon the method for creating those wonderful bubbles, he declared, “Come quickly brothers, I am tasting the stars!” Champagne immediately became the drink of royalty and its de rigueur ceremonies.

RELATED: The Cocktail That Never Goes Out Of Fashion

So when did people begin playing around with champagne cocktails? In fact, Mark Twain is credited with the first mention of one back in 1869 — in those days, a splash of brandy, a bit of sugar, and a drop or two of bitters went into the mix. Today’s classic just requires champagne poured over a bitters-soaked sugar cube. That’s it! (A gift for the tinkerers, and for your wallets: any drinkable sparkling wine will do.)

Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
3-5 dashes Angostura bitters
6 ounces sparkling wine or champagne
lemon peel for garnish

Sprinkle sugar cube with a few good splashes of Angostura bitters and place at the bottom of a champagne flute. Fill glass with champagne; garnish with lemon twist.

To master the art of lemon twists, watch our how-to.

Save (and print!) this recipe here.

For the best champagne cocktail...
1. Be sure to use a champagne or sparkling wine you would drink straight. For a true champagne that won’t completely wipe out your beverage budget for the month, consider NV Philippe Prié Champagne Brut Tradition.
2. Use a flute — heirloom coupes are lovely, but alas, champagne holds its effervescence much better in a slim flute. Save your coupes for drinks that aren’t so touchy.

RELATED: Master The Martini

To Mimosas … and Beyond!
A mimosa made with fresh-squeezed orange juice and sparkling wine is a thing of beauty, but it wouldn’t hurt to branch out a little. Some party-worthy variations:
1. The Poinsettia is one part cranberry juice to four parts champagne. Try rimming the glass with colored sugar before mixing.
2. Experiment with your favorite liqueur — I love pomegranate, but creme de violette works well, too. Pour an ounce into your flute, and top the rest with wine.

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Classic Cocktails from A-Z: Champagne Cocktail
Food52 helps people become better, smarter, happier cooks. Food52 was named 2012 Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and won Best Culinary Website at the 2013 IACP awards.